A pair of state senators along with a group of education advocates have called for the creation of a Kindergarten Conversion Fund aimed at expanding full-day kindergarten across the state.
At a Thursday meeting between state Sen. David Carlucci (D-Rockland), state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester), members of the NYSUT and local parents and children, the lawmakers called for the creation of the fund from $60 million in unclaimed or forfeited lottery prizes.
“Across the state, young children have started to build their educational foundation with Universal Pre-K, a vital educational program that I was proud to fight for in 2014,” Klein said. “By establishing the Kindergarten Conversion Fund, we can use unclaimed or forfeited lottery money to finally close that (educational) gap and ensure that all of New York’s students have the early education they deserve.”
Carlucci said that the state loses “tens of millions of dollars” in unclaimed lottery prizes while school districts struggle to cover the costs of educating kindergarteners.
“The Kindergarten Conversion Fund will alleviate this burden on school districts by ensuring that students across New York will have the ability to attend full day kindergarten,” Carlucci said.
In a statement issued after the Thursday event, the senators said kindergarten can close the achievement gaps resulting from income and education disparities in the home. Studies show that students attending all-day kindergarten perform better in school and, eventually, obtain higher-paying jobs. It is estimated that if each student was given the opportunity to attend full-day kindergarten, the state could receive an additional $25 million in accumulated benefits.
The senators said that over 30 school districts could benefit from new funds that would cover capital expenses for kindergarten program expansion.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta echoes the senators’ comments.
"NYSUT fully supports investment in full-day kindergarten,” he said. “It is far more cost-effective and educationally sound to invest in school readiness at the front end of a student's academic career, rather than trying to play catch-up later when a student is experiencing difficulties and frustration.”